What does a Republican have to do to get elected statewide in Washington, where the heavily Democratic Puget Sound can trump voters in the rest of the state? In his post-mortem of the Nov. 2 election, former state Republican Party chairman Chris Vance had this to say on Crosscut:
To win statewide, a Republican must win Pierce and Snohomish and attract 40 percent of the vote in King County. . . . Message, not mechanics, is the key. Republicans must find candidates and messages that will appeal to moderate, pragmatic, well-educated suburban voters.
Read the entire posting here.
Look at the Republicans who have won statewide office in recent years: Secretary of State Sam Reed and Attorney General Rob McKenna. Both fit Vance’s description of “moderate” and “pragmatic.” I think Dino Rossi was badly hurt by the ads pointing out his positions on abortion choice and equal pay – issues important to many women.
Rumors are rampant that McKenna plans to run for governor, and there really aren’t any other viable Republican candidates on the horizon, so the nomination likely is his for the asking. Were he to win, he’d be the first GOP governor since John Spellman in 1980.
If the mountain of press releases out of McKenna’s office is any indication, he’s focusing on consumer protection. With the exception of joining the lawsuit against the national health care reform plan, he’s been careful to steer away from social issues. But the closer we get to 2012, voters will want to hear where he’s at on them.
Who’s his likely opponent if Chris Gregoire doesn’t seek re-election or takes a job with the Obama administration? Congressman Jay Inslee is the most talked-about possibility. He told Publicola last year that he “would be interested” if Gregoire doesn’t run.
I have to think McKenna would have a better chance of winning in that matchup, given the fact that he’s already won statewide election by beating a Puget Sound-area Democrat (John Ladenburg). I think state D’s would have a better chance against McKenna with state Auditor Brian Sonntag. He’s very popular with independents and even many Republicans – if not always with the leadership of his own party. I can’t tell you how many GOP candidates we interviewed this campaign season who cited Sonntag’s suggestions for budget savings.